Tell Turkey to free Taner & İdil
The situation in Turkey is truly frightening. The Chair and Director of Amnesty Turkey have both been jailed on false allegations that they are involved with “terrorist organisations”. Many other human rights defenders are either detained or banned from travel as they await charges.
Tell Turkey's Minister of Justice to put an end to this witch-hunt and to release Taner, İdil and all human rights defenders in Turkey.
Tell Turkey to free Taner & İdil
Taner Kılıç, Chair of Amnesty Turkey, was detained in the early hours of 6 June along with 22 other lawyers on suspicion of involvement with the “terrorist organisation” Fethullah Gülen.
He has now been officially charged with membership of the organisation and remains in prison awaiting trial.
Shocking lack of evidence
The only claim that supposedly links Taner to the Gülen movement is that Bylock – a secure mobile messaging application that the authorities say was used by members of the terrorist group – was discovered on his phone in August 2014.
No evidence has been given to back this up and Taner denies ever having downloaded or used Bylock. In fact, he says he’d never even heard of it until its alleged use by the Gülen movement was widely spread in the media.
Taner is neither a supporter nor a follower of the Fethullah Gülen movement and has in fact been critical of its role in Turkey. He must not face trial on the basis of flimsy and inadequate accusations.
These charges have drawn widespread international condemnation, including from the US State Department, the EU and many international and domestic human rights organisations.
An honourable and principled man
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:
“Taner Kılıç is a principled and passionate human rights defender. The charges brought against him today are completely without merit. They show just how arbitrary, just how sweeping, the Turkish government’s frenzied pursuit of its perceived enemies and critics has become. He must be released immediately and the charges against him dropped.”
İdil Eser, Director of Amnesty Turkey, was at a routine training workshop on 5 July in a hotel in Büyükada, Istanbul when the authorities burst in and arrested her without giving a reason.
Nine other human rights defenders on the course were also detained, with eight facing indefinite imprisonment in Turkey before official charges are made.
They have all been accused of “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation”: a ridiculous and baseless accusation. All they are guilty of is bravely speaking up for human rights in Turkey.
We know that İdil and others were kept in solitary confinement without proper access to their lawyers for some time.
Cobbling together a case
The details of Turkey’s accusations against İdil are astounding. They include attempts to link her with three unrelated and opposing “terrorist organisations” through her work for Amnesty.
The prosecutor's request – that she remain in prison awaiting trial – references two campaigns by Amnesty, neither of which involved Amnesty Turkey, one of which was conducted before İdil joined the organisation.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:
“The last place my extremely dedicated colleague and friend İdil should be is behind bars.
“Like so many others caught up in Turkey’s terrifying crackdown, İdil and her fellow human rights activists are facing completely unfounded charges.
“The UK along with governments around the world must do more and publicly demand İdil and her colleagues’ immediate release.”
Here are details of all the human rights defenders who were arrested.
The government backlash since the failed government coup on 15 July 2016 has been astonishingly widespread. The numbers reported by CNN as of April 2017 are as follows:
- Detentions: 113,260
- Arrests: 47,115
- Journalists dismissed: 2,708
- Media outlets shut down: 179
Along with the accusations against Taner, İdil and their colleagues, we expect these numbers to have risen even higher since.
Among other draconian measures are a ban on TV dating shows, which the Deputy Prime Minister has called “strange programmes that would scrap the institution of family, take away its nobility and sanctity”.
There has also been an attempt at online censorship, including a block on online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and attempted blocks on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Protecting human rights defenders
These men and women are not criminals. They are heroes.
Every day, they risk their own safety to defend others. They speak out for people’s freedom, they challenge injustices and they fight for everyone in Turkey to be treated fairly.
Turkey has locked them up, just when they are needed most: when the independent media has been silenced, speaking out comes at a high cost and people are living in fear.
This recent crackdown on human rights defenders shows how broad the coup has become, going beyond the police and armed forces, penetrating deep into civil society.
Countries and individuals around the world must hold the Turkish authorities to account for violating the rights of so many citizens.